Music in Colleges and Universities

By Kate McKenzie

It’s never too early to start thinking about how music can help you achieve your collegiate goals. No, you don’t have to major in music at a world-renowned conservatory to continue to study music, perform in ensembles, or even get a scholarship. Most universities have several large ensembles that are open to to all students, and they often have scholarship money to to attract talented musicians (including non-music majors) to their program. Many people do not know this, thus never seeking the opportunity to win one of these scholarships. Here are a few things you need to know about continuing music in college: 


  1. Many schools require that students to take private lessons in order to participate in music department ensembles. Lessons are taken for credit and are graded by the professor of your specific instrument. Contacting this professor is important, as they have the most accurate information and often make scholarship decisions. As soon as you decide on which universities you are going to apply to, peruse their websites where you can learn about who teaches your instrument and everything that the music department has to offer. Email the teacher as soon as possible to introduce yourself. Tell him/her about your plans should you get accepted to that school, ask direct questions about what they can offer you, and remember to always be polite and professional in your writing. It is important to show that you are a serious student who deserves any financial assistance they may have to offer. 
  2. Auditions are common, even if you are not a music major. These auditions are generally designed to maintain a certain level of musicianship for the sake of the school’s wind band or orchestra. It is also a way to weed out non-serious students who are unwilling to put in the effort necessary to prepare. Auditions are either held in the spring before the start of the school year or right at the beginning of the first semester. The private lesson teacher will give you information on these auditions including when, where, and what to prepare. Don’t be intimidated by the audition process, it can be a very fruitful and rewarding experience (my previous blog post on performance anxiety might be helpful!).
  3. Though there may be financial assistance for non-music majors (every university is different and you won’t know unless you ask), there are more funding opportunities for music majors. A university’s Department of Music is looking attract students for their own degree programs, all left-over money (if there is any) will often to students of other departments. So if you are serious about having your musical skills fund your college education, consider preparing now to major in music!